The Participants Perspective- Squirt

FD1 was so incredible last year that I fell in love with kayaking and couldn’t wait to get back on the river. So this summer, I went to FD2 to kayak in Montana. I was nervous and anxious at the beginning, worried about having to fit in with a whole new group of people and worried that I had forgotten how to kayak on the river. There’s something about getting on the river in your kayak though, that makes you live in the present and let go of your worries. As I was going through the first rapid though, I kept thinking about one of my instructors last year telling me to keep paddling, to sit up straight, and lo and behold I made it through just fine. I was so thrilled and remembered exactly why I fell in love with kayaking! As the week went on though and I got more and more comfortable in the river, and met each rapid with a smile on my face. The scenery in Montana was so incredibly beautiful and being on the river brought me such joy. On our last day on the river, we kayaked a pretty challenging stretch, and I didn’t swim at all, even though I went through this big hole that we were supposed to go around! One of the highlights was watching Grid, a fellow camper, flip in a rapid and then do a combat roll and didn’t have to be saved! As a group, we were all amazing and even the instructors were impressed with our mad skills.

We made so many amazing memories in just one week of camp that I never want to forget. At one of the campfires, Konvict mentioned that at FD we have these amazing communities full of unconditional love handed to us. And it’s so true. It was so touching to see Patch and Sweet D take care of Lolli through all of her seizures and make it possible for her to go down the river with us and enjoy the full experience. Patch is absolutely the sweetest guy ever. It was also really neat to be able to convert on “off water day” into a 12 mile paddling day and camp overnight by the river. We spent the night after campfire singing and watching the stars come out, and it made me so happy because I love to
sing but rarely get the chance to (and you can’t see very many stars in Houston). There were so many precious moments that we shared and that I want to keep in my heart forever. As Konvict also said though, he hopes to build this wonderful kind of community in the rest of his life, and that’s definitely something I want to work on too because this community makes me feel so happy and fulfilled.

Despite it being a kayaking camp, the whole week was a head fake. We learned how to be confident, how to take challenges head on, how to try new things. We enjoyed the incredibly supportive community and learned to open up, and let our true/best selves shine. We cheered each other on, laughed with each other, and learned how to have fun again. We learned what we are capable of, individually, and together. We became family. I will always look back at FD with awe and wonder how it’s able to be so magical every time.

A Traveling TeamFD Challenge

My year long yoga challenge for Team FD came to new heights-literally-in Jackson, Wyoming this past weekend.. I have been blessed to be able to practice yoga outside here in my favorite place on earth. It has been a refreshing and fun change from my daily yoga practice back home. I came out here to do some rock climbing with old friends (and keep up with my daily yoga as well). I used to climb in my youth, and I’ve dabbled in climbing since living in Illinois, but I have never hugged rock like I did on the route we climbed in Grand Teton National Park.

My friend Tracy and I set out to climb with Exum Mountain Guides. We were excited and I felt confident with all of the yoga I do every day for First Descents that this climbing would be a piece of cake. I was wrong. After a little bouldering to warm up we set out to climb in the hot sun with packs on our backs. Climbing with packs on our backs? Yes, hello fear, goodbye confidence. Not to mention the rock we were climbing had glacial polish and in my opinion, looked like Yosemite type of climbing and I was full on scared at that point. Indeed it was a challenge and reminded me that I am not 25 anymore and can’t just jump into adventures like I used to. After the second pitch my mind was completely on First Descents. I thought about all of the campers who experience this type of fear during camp. It reminded me how fear deflates confidence and clouds judgement. At that point, facing my fears on the rock was a mental game. I had to take a moment and breathe, which is when my yoga came in handy. Climbing and yoga go together like peanut butter and jelly. After some deep breaths and focusing on what I had to do, I was able to top out and finish that climb.

Yoga helps me face everyday challenges, but meeting it on the rock in Wyoming was a real test of yoga off the mat. What a great reminder to climb on.

-Magee “Lotus” Duffy

Catching up with Brad Ludden

Dear FD Family,

We’re half way through our largest season of programming ever and I couldn’t be happier! Even though it’s hectic with everything going on around FD, everyone is continuing to step it up at every turn. I’m confident that the amazing testimonials, stories, pictures and adventures will continue throughout the rest of the year. If they’re anything like the first half of the season, this promises to be the best year FD has ever seen.

People often ask me if I ever thought FD would become what it is today. Honestly, I don’t think I could have imagined this. We’re operating nearly 50 programs all over North America, working with lead researchers to measure the impacts of adventure therapy on young adults with cancer, summiting peaks, descending rivers and surfing waves that would be considered a huge accomplishment to anyone regardless of cancer, and we’re doing all of this with growing community, support, excitement and momentum. FD’s success is a testament to the strength of the human spirit in the face of adversity and our common belief that cancer doesn’t have the right to define or suppress us.

I just want to end with my sincere gratitude to everyone who makes the FD Family what it is, with your continued support we’ll make 2012 a year to remember. First of all, thank you to all of our staff and volunteers for working tirelessly around the clock to make this all possible. I also want to recognize the strength and efforts of all of the TEAM FD athletes, you guys are amazing! A huge thanks to our donors who continue to believe  that our mission is necessary, we couldn’t do this without you. Finally, a HUGE shout out to the participants whose lust for life is contagious! We are all inspired by your courage, compassion and desire to live a life beyond cancer. The pictures of you surfing, climbing and kayaking continue to amaze us!


Brad “Hosenboater” Ludden

PS. As always, if you know a young adult with cancer, please tell them about First Descents’ programs! If you’re feeling inspired to challenge yourself and pay it forward, please check out TEAM FD!

FD Healthy: Tai Chi and Qi Gong Health Benefits

This is an article I came across by Dr. Keith Block.  I thought it was an important one to share with you all.  Personally I have been enjoying adding some Qi Gong into my own weekly routine and have been loving it.  The health benefits are amazing!  Enjoy!        -Googley

By Dr. Keith Block on July 13, 2012

Tai Chi and Qigong Can Bolster Cancer Survivorship

Though many forms of exercise seem fairly mechanical in their execution, some are more grounded in the realm of awareness and mindfulness. The latter include Tai Chi and Qigong (pronounced Chee-Gung), both of which are more generally referred to as meditation in motion. This is because, although each type of exercise does involve some form of movement or body positioning, its practice also entails a focus on relaxed breathing and the cultivation of a clear, calm state of mind. If you have cancer, these gentle forms of exercise can markedly improve your energy levels and quality of life ? and may even help in your recovering physically and emotionally from cancer and its treatment.

One of the leading investigators of meditative movement is Karen Mustian, Ph.D., an exercise physiologist and research assistant professor in radiation oncology at the University of Rochester Medical Center. Following chemotherapy and radiation treatments, Dr. Mustian randomly assigned 21 breast cancer patients in Greensboro, N.C., to either a three-month Tai Chi program or a support group. Whereas the support group experienced no overall reduction in cancer-related fatigue and no significant improvement in quality of life, patients practicing Tai Chi showed a steady improvement in their energy levels, mood, self-esteem and quality of life, as reported in the March 2006 Journal of Supportive Oncology.

Tai Chi is an excellent weight-bearing exercise and therefore can help improve bone health, a problem for many patients who have received treatments that exact a toll on the bones. Most recently, Dr. Mustian and her colleagues reported that Tai Chi significantly reduced bone loss in breast cancer survivors, as reported in the June 2010 issue of Clinical Breast Cancer. In addition to these benefits, Dr. Mustian reports that Tai Chi seems to improve strength, flexibility, and heart and lung function in women with metastatic breast cancer.

Traditional Chinese doctors have long used Qigong, another form of meditative movement, as a way to prevent and cure ailments, and to improve health and energy levels through regular practice. To date, five controlled clinical trials have shown favorable effects of Qigong for people with cancer. However, a recent systematic review concluded that most of the clinical studies done to date have been poorly designed. Nevertheless, at least two randomized clinical trials indicated that Qigong prolonged survival in cancer patients, as reported in the June 2007 issue of Acta Oncologica.

Most of us in the West first learned about the Qigong’s cancer-fighting impact from the Second World Conference on Academic Exchange of Medical Qigong in 1993. Scientists at the conference reported on a study of 122 cancer patients in China and offered the following conclusion: The longer the Qigong was practiced, the greater the inhibition of tumor growth and reduction in pain. Qigong practitioners also had more stable immune system functioning, fewer side effects of chemotherapy and a much higher percentage of tumor regressions than non-practitioners. In a separate study, the Qigong practitioners had a five-fold greater response to chemotherapy compared to non-practitioners.

Qigong is done in two basic ways, internal and external. Internal Qigong is self-directed and actively engages people in their own health. Daily practice is encouraged for health maintenance and disease prevention. By contrast, external Qigong is done by a practitioner such as a Qigong master or traditional Chinese doctor. Although neither type of Qigong is well understood in terms of the underlying mechanisms of action, there are published reports that go beyond the purposed therapeutic benefits for cancer patients.

In laboratory studies, for example, external Qigong triggered “programmed cell death” (apoptosis) in aggressive prostate cancer cells, as reported in the March 2008 issue of “Molecular & Cellular Biochemistry.” In another lab report published two years earlier, external Qigong was found to be toxic to cancer cells while leaving normal cells unharmed.

As you can see, the benefits of exercise are by no means restricted to aerobic activity or resistance training. The advantage of practicing something as gentle as Tai Chi or Qigong is that it’s virtually impossible to overdo it: The practice involves slow, graceful, continuous movements that engender a state of relaxed alertness in the practitioner. As with yoga, both Tai Chi and Qigong can most certainly improve your quality of life, and I consider these low-impact, meditative forms of exercise to be safe and useful component to include as part of your integrative cancer treatment program.